Pound dumbfounds players, coaches

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:51 PM ET

I admire Dick Pound. I admire anybody who takes on the establishment the way he has, crusading for tougher penalties and stricter enforcement of anti-doping rules in sports.

The Montreal lawyer, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, seems to have made it his mission in life to not only crack down on drug use in the Olympic movement, but also in pro sports.

And good for him. For far too long the people who run our games turned a blind eye to what's been going on.

In the long run, it'll be good for the Olympics to become as clean as possible, just like it's best for baseball and football to clean up their steroid-fuelled acts. If you ask me, all three of those still have a long way to go.

But Pound's comments about the NHL this past week were puzzling, to say the least.

I mean, one third of NHL players on performance-enhancing drugs? That's pretty out there.

And every hockey player from Newfoundland to Nanaimo, and everywhere in between, seems to think so, too.

Including Neepawa, Manitoba's Shane Hnidy.

"A couple of us were laughing at that," Hnidy, a defenceman with the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers, was saying via cell phone yesterday. "You know hockey players. Everybody's got bodies of normal people. Most hockey players, their one problem may be too many beers."

Good one.

In fact, Hnidy says the NHL Players Association did extensive testing just before the lockout, anticipating the new collective bargaining agreement would include a drug policy.

"We did a union-wide test to see where we were at, and the numbers were extremely low," he said. "It was not even a concern."

Hnidy's comments mirror that of players and officials across the NHL, and I don't believe this is a case of everybody sticking their heads in the sand.

Aside from a few tough guys, hockey players simply wouldn't benefit enough from steroid use.

Of course, stimulants, like Sudafed, are a whole different story.

It's been well documented that some players have popped the cold pills like candy in the past. Maybe some still are.

Yesterday, Pound clarified that he was including that kind of abuse in his comments to the Sun Media.

But still, one-third of NHL players?

"It's not a perfect world," Dauphin, Man., product Barry Trotz, head coach of the Nashville Predators, said. "But I think that's absurd. They realize Sudafed is a banned substance, so they don't take it. Players take their careers very seriously.

"We've talked about that. We've said, 'Hey, if you use it, it's for the right reasons.' "

You mean, for a cold?

"Yeah, like the one I have now," Trotz said. "I never had a Sudafed to play, to be honest with you."

Down in Los Angeles, Kings' head coach Andy Murray of Souris, getting over a cold of his own, says Kings trainers don't even carry Sudafed anymore.

"I asked for some just the other day," Murray said. "But we don't have any."

Murray says he's not naive enough to suggest there are no NHL players who use performance-enhancing drugs.

"I have never been exposed to anything in my time in the league," Murray said. "And that's going on close to 15 years now."

Maybe Pound was simply finding a way to put pressure on the NHL to strengthen its drug policy, which calls for a 20-game suspension for a first failed test, 60 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.

By comparison, baseball's three strikes carry 50-game, 100-game and lifetime bans. Of course, that policy only came after extreme pressure from the U.S. Senate.

Since our Canadian Senate is useless, I guess we've got Dick Pound, instead.

Which is better than ignoring the problem altogether.


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